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On Sunday April 24, 2016 Twisted Reality had the honor of interviewing Dr. Shafi Ahmed, the man behind the gear of the first 360-degree VR Surgery.
He is also the co-founder of virtual and augmented reality firm Medical Realities, the firm behind the whole event streaming.
Dr. Ahmed is also a big VR enthusiast as he admitted owning Cardboards, all versions of the Gear VR, Oculus Rift, a VR One, and a HTC Vive.

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As you can see in this photo, Ahmed is styling for the cameras with a VR One headset. And no he didn’t really wear vr gear while doing the operation. He just thought it would be a cool shot and we can definitely give him a thumbs up.

Medical Realities was the first step of this whole journey. Dr. Ahmed knew his best bet was to fund his own 360 streaming company for the project to go forward. This first operation was their first field test and he concider it a success.
Althought the whole set up had to be installed prior to the intervention and dismanteled after the intervention, Dr. Ahmed’s goal is to make the few adjustments required after this first test to install a permanent setup.
Ultimately this setup could be used by more doctors and be used for ongoing trainings of current and future doctors all around the world.

The intervention was available to watch on many devices : Computers, iOS, Android, and of course the Gear VR who got the 2nd spot for the number of viewers.
The streams attracted about 55 thousands viewers, and 2/3 were on desktops and we can bet many were probably projected in medical school classes all over the world.  We only expect those number to rise year after year until it becomes a common learning tool.

Statistik ORINVR

After he was supported from the beginning by not only the hospital, but by the patient’s family, Dr. Ahmed was able to express a new way of introducing immersive OR operations to learning trainee surgeons.

For those who are new to the Vr world, 360 Vr is also known as an immersive video or a spherical video.
It is basically video recordings of a real-world panorama, where the view is recorded in every direction at the same time, shot using an omnidirectional camera or by a collection of cameras.
During the playback, viewers have the option to control the viewing direction. Which in this case the viewers were trainees, clinicians and others seeking further education in the OR.

Dr. Ahmed was very eager to share about his latest accomplishments and the TR crew was very excited to talk one on one with him. He was more than happy to answer all of our questions pertaining to the latest surgery and was very open about the whole experience.

“How long did it take from the moment the idea was brought to the hospital and the time the operation happened?”

“It was on my mind for a year but I needed to fund a company who could stream live 360.I met them in January
and I just pushed the accelerator. Sorting out ethics, Governance, Safety for example.
To be fair as soon as I spoke to the chief executive she just said we will make it work…what do you need…which was amazing support.
There was never a problem that we couldn’t solve quickly “

“How was performing this operation different from performing a standard operation?”

“The operation I chose wasn’t easy… But as I had done this before I was focused. Despite having lots of news cameras and reporters next to me as well as a room full of trainees.”

“Do you think that it in the future some surgeries will be preformed remotely with the use of VR or AR?”

“Yes, I use the term “surgical Singularity” obviously after Ray Kurzweil’s term.
And to me, the moonshot has to be creating a surgical robot that can operate independently.
This will democratise healthcare, then you wouldn’t need to train the 2.2 million surgeons required to provide equity of surgical care”

“Do you think we will see a rise in the use for education in the next 5 years.
More precisely, do you think professionals will start filming their work for school or professional training?”

“In my TEDX talk and my talk at Singularity, I suggested that AR and VR are merely a continuum from the ancient Egyptians producing papyrus…” “….so this will be embedded in education. It’s first up to us to work out the value and validation.”

“For real operations it really will make a difference to training. We will have to add elements on interaction and perhaps communication between surgeons and trainees, to make it better. But we’re working on that…”

“How was the feedback from the trainees and clinicians and other viewers from the 360 Vr surgery?”

“Interestingly I was expecting a lot of criticism…’ “But surprisingly there was only positive feedback, we had only one negative article out of 150. And that was related to the fact that it was 360 and not true VR which is valid. Otherwise it was overwhelmingly supportive.”

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Here is a 360-degree view of the operation where Ahmed and fellow surgeons are operating in the OR.

But even before speaking with Dr. Ahmed we could see his determination and dedication to achieve the unthinkable to help improve education for future trainees and others alike.
He is very passionate in what he does and uses his inspiration and diligent hard-work ethic to create a new atmosphere for students, patients and their families.
Dr. Shafi Ahmed is taking the next step by incorporating new technology into his everyday practice.
By applying 360-degree VR, Dr. Ahmed can now show the trainees real life experiences in the operating room and help them be more equipped for the OR.
You can only teach so much when it comes to simulation but now they have a way to ensure that students and trainees know what to expect when in the moment of a life changing operation and better prepare them on how to behave in that environment.

Not only does Dr. Ahmed show high intellect in the matter of the medical field and bring the new addition of live 360 VR views, he also brings hope and comfort to the families and friends of the patients who are being operated on. Dr. Shafi Ahmed takes the time to make sure the families have what they need when the operation is set. From personal experience with family members having operations, there is a lot to wonder about when thinking what happens in the OR.  Especially if you have to wait in the waiting room hours upon hours, waiting to hear about the operation.

 Dr. Ahmed expresses that, “We have to take away the myth of surgery. It has always been steeped in mystery. I was hearing that they often don’t hear
anything the first 4 to 5 hours their loved ones are in the OR. This helps them…. I didn’t expect that.”

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